And Fantastic Juan Again
All Hands! By H. M. Tomlinson (Heinemann, 7s. 6c1.) Juan in China. By Eric Linklater. (Cape, 7s. 6d.) The Earl of Chicago. By Brock Williams. (Harrap, 75. 6d.) Mrs. Miller's Aunt. By George A. Birmingham. (Methuen, 7s, 6d.) The Dissolute Years. By Eduard Stucken. (jarrolds, 8s. (ic1.) Attic Meteor. By Dennis Parry. (Hale, is. 6d.) Reviewed by FRANCIS BURDETT
Even those who do not love the sea and are ignorant of much that concerns it will find it difficult to read All Hands! unstirred. It is the story of a freighter, old yet belonging to present days. She is the centre, focus, mystery behind all that happens. Almost is she more important than anything that happens to her. The captain, the crew and the two strange passengers who so rashly travelled in her are made into an heroic setting for the Hestia who carried them. She was an unlucky ship; her name, it is true, had been changed but all sailors know that that is an unprofitable expedient. We see her from every angle; as the property, and not very valuable at that, of the hard Sir John Dowland, owner of the Dowland Line; as captained by Doughty, as inhabited by a suspicious and doubting crew; as calling into action all the skill and endurance of the engineers; as the strange choice, loved yet feared, of Professor Tennant and his daughter. Doughty could sail a ship in style, even when the owner least desired or expected it. The Hestia exacted all that he could give of skill and courage and in some strange way transcended it. It is magnificently written.
.Mr. Linklater has followed up Juan in America with the further adventures of that young man in China. There is the same brilliance of writing and that happy mixture of improbability and wit that just stops short of sheer fantasia. For how
ever fantastic Juan in China may be, however improbable, foolish, highly coloured and even impossible, there is a groundwork of solid fact and a basis of solid understanding. The virtue. as too the vice, of Juan is his gift for speech. There are long, amusing, scintillating conversations, noteworthy amongst which (though it was really a monologue) is his analysis of the simple word " yes" and " no and of what their use connotates. But the doubt creeps in as to whether scintillation is enough. As a sort of decor for Juan remarks there is a war, both comic and tragic, between the Japs and the Chinese, and the description of it may well hide some profound truths for all its frivolity. But Juan, stripped of all self-imposed glamour, is a verbose philanderer unworthy of the serious beauty of Kuo Kuo, as he was unfaithful to it. Resourceful in difficulties, an adept at making the best of any circumstances in which he happened to be involved, disconcerting and at times. irreverent. he was essentially one who talked and loved talking for its own sake. To him verbal felicities were an end in themselves, so it is a book for enlivening odd moments but not for continuous reading.
Imorobable and absurd as many a film yet The Earl of Chic.ago may be read with real pleasure. The heir to the earldom of Gorley is found in America. His life has been true to the wilder Chicago tradition and he has been a ganester of star dimensions. He, with his " bodyguard," reach England and the fun begins. There are his efforts to adapt himself to unknown English ways and methods of speech, his shrewdness in dealing with the family law